Second Thoughts: Mythbusters Edition
Quelling general misconceptions about the Indians and their playoff run
The Indians have accomplished the near-improbable in 2013 by clinching not only a wild card berth, but home field advantage in the one-game playoff, a prize previously thought earmarked for the second place AL East or AL West team. As the fans and players celebrate before the Wild Card game at Progressive Field on Wednesday, there are some unflattering theories about why this team made the playoffs and how they may not even deserve to be playing in October.
Allow me to play the role of a popular Discovery Channel show known as “Mythbusters” as I attempt to dispel some of the recent misconceptions about the Tribe. Note, there won’t be any explosions involved in this episode (unfortunately). But bear with me all the same.
1. The Indians had an unfair schedule advantage.
BUSTED: While the Tribe did have arguably the most favorable September schedule in baseball, there was no schedule disadvantage if you took the time to look at the season schedule as a whole. In May and June alone, the Indians played 43 of their 58 games in that span against playoff contenders or teams over .500, including 28 straight games against such teams. In that two-month span, the Indians posted a record of 33-25.
Considering that the Indians weren’t projected to get anywhere near the playoffs this season, it doesn’t seem like there was much the schedule maker could do to “fix” the schedule to favor the Tribe. They’ve had a well-documented, September schedule, but they had to fight and claw their way through long, tough stretches to get to that point, let alone get there with a chance to make a playoff push.
2. The Indians can’t beat other playoff-caliber teams.
BUSTED: The way some talk, you’d think no playoff team has ever lost to another contending team before. Yes, the Indians did not play well against Detroit, Boston, New York and Tampa Bay, but they had winning records against every other American League team, including noted playoff contenders Texas, Oakland, Baltimore and Kansas City. Their record against the prior four teams was 8-31 while they had a combined record of 24-15 against the other AL playoff contenders.
Similarly, the Tigers have losing records against Baltimore, Kansas City, Oakland and Texas (17-22) while Boston has losing records against Texas, Detroit, Kansas City and Baltimore (15-24). Both, might I mention, are currently favorites to meet in the ALCS and battle for the pennant. Comparatively, 8-31 is a worse mark than the above examples, but still singling them out seems a bit unfair since, believe it or not, there are playoff teams that have struggled against other contenders this season.
3. The Indians can’t beat quality pitchers.
PLAUSIBLE: Like any team in baseball, there are pitchers the Indians struggle against, but to say they can’t do anything against quality pitchers seems like an unfair assessment. Sure, James Shields can cut through Tribe hitters like butter. On the other hand, Cy Young contender Chris Sale may still be having nightmares about the featherheads stepping to the plate against him this season. In fact, an argument could be made that Sale could give Tigers ace Max Scherzer a run for his money in the Cy Young race if you take away his starts against Cleveland, in which he went 0-4 with an 8.61 ERA in four starts, his highest against any opponent in 2013.
Additionally at the beginning of the season, the Indians had a run where they beat seven consecutive Cy Young winners. Former bearers of the award R.A. Dickey, David Price, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander all had marks in the loss column at the hand of the Indians. Between them, an 0-7 mark with a 9.74 ERA was posted in those seven starts. Yes, there are other top of the league hurlers that have had the Tribe’s number this year, but it’s no better or worse than the average team’s struggles or dominance against quality pitching.
While none of these facts, stats or opinions will carry any weight on Wednesday night when Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays take the field against Danny Salazar and the Tribe for the Wild Card game, they do stand to prove that Terry Francona’s squad absolutely earned a right to be in the position they are now. They have been through it all from skepticism from national pundits, to finding their stride both as individual players and as a team to quelling doubt from their own fans.
And it’s been through the concerted effort of Francona and the other leaders in the clubhouse to keep this club from rolling over and fading out that they’ve finally reenergized a city and fan base which had taken some time over the season to win their faith and affection back. They know why they’re here. They know what it took to get here. Now it’s up to them to see if they can take it one step further.
Follow me on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake for all the latest Cleveland Indians news and baseball chat.
2007 was a great year, no question about it. But the data sample of one series is wrong.
This Indians, God bless their overachieving ways, consistently failed to perform against the quality teams. They were lucky enough to catch a streaky KC team this season when they were at their worst, but lost the last two series with them.
Look, I love the Indians as much as the next guy, but there were some significant holes in this team -- offense mostly -- that can't be ignored and are going to have to be fixed.
We had some REALLY lucky hitting last May when you couldn't get us out with two outs and RISP. That stuff comes back to even out, like it did last night . We can't count on a repeat of that luck. We have to figure out how to get better.
Solid logic, right there.